ATLANTA -- Shopping for consumer products, hotel rooms and airline tickets has taken on a whole new dimension.
Its all about the Internet. We've come to rely on it to find out all we want to know before we buy anything.
But now a big caution flag, don't believe everything you read on the internet.
If you are about to buy that new dishwasher, or latest book, or hunt for a vacation hotel or buy airline tickets -- years ago, you asked your friends and neighbors -- but, now you largely rely on thousands of reviews before you buy anything.
What would you think if some of the worst reviews were simply untrue or deceptive and written by people who never bought or tried the product or service.
It's happening right now about 5% of the time, says a study just out from MIT and Northwestern University.
Already well known are glowing reviews that people are paid to write to hype products, but documenting intentionally bad and often untrue reviews is a newcomer.
Eric Anderson, a Northwestern University Professor, co-authored the Study and examined more than 400,000 reviews over 6 months to reach his conclusions.
He says there are tell tale signs to look for.
"What is most compelling is most reviews tend to be too detailed." Anderson said.
"Another easy clue look for is repeated use of exclamation points. Two, three or four for emphasis, is often associated with deception," he added.
"Really what you have to do is read a lot of them. Don't just read the 2 or 3 negative ones which may or may not be real--read alot of the reviews," said Ken Bernhardt, a leading Atlanta marketing consultant and former Professor of Marketing at Georgia State University.
And consumers are doing just that.
"I see if there is enough of a negative review. I see what they are actually saying and then I weigh that against the positive reviews -- so I try to get a balance view," says Sarah Jamieson, a frequent buyer on the Internet.
"I am looking for positive response not negative response. 95% of the negatives are based on anger or untrue thoughts," said another shopper.
But not all of them are based on anger.
"At the end (of the study) we concluded that many of the negative reviews came from customers who were trying to act as self proclaimed appointed brand managers," Anderson said.
But in doing so, the writers can paint a picture that's often as untrue as the reviews they write.